Cyberactivism in China

Empowerment, Control, and Beyond

Authored by: Rongbin Han

The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics

Print publication date:  December  2015
Online publication date:  December  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138860766
eBook ISBN: 9781315716299
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506560


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With the rapid expansion of the Internet and social media, scholars have debated on the sociopolitical impact of such technological advancements. Those who are optimistic claim that the new digital tools have empowered social actors and fundamentally transformed the relationship between the governing and the governed. Authoritarian regimes, in particular, now increasingly face the ‘dictator’s dilemma’ between imposing control over the digital media and embracing the new technologies to keep up with the rest of the world. As Shirky (2011: 36) puts it, “with the spread of digital media, a state that is accustomed to having a monopoly on public speech finds itself called to account for anomalies between its view of events and the public’s.” However, there are also more skeptical views towards the impact of digital media. For instance, Morozov (2011, also see Hindman 2009), among others, questions the idea of the digital media as serving as a democratising force, and highlights the way in which the technology may help entrench dictators, suppress dissidents, and impede democratisation.

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